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Thread: Realizing Genjokoan - Translation and Chapter 1

  1. #1

    Realizing Genjokoan - Translation and Chapter 1

    Dear Genjoers,

    This week (or two, we will see how it goes), let's read the full Genjo Koan translation from page 1, and all of the short Chapter 1 on Dogen's life up until writing it.

    If you have never read it before (or even if you have), please pick a sentence or two, or a passage, that really jumps out at you. Before we dive into Okumura Roshi commentary, I would like to know your feelings and intuition on what that sentence or passage means and why it touches you. Later, in a few weeks, you can compare your early feelings about the passage to Okumura Roshi's comments about it.

    Gassho, Jundo


  2. #2
    Member Seishin's Avatar
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    Aug 2016
    La Croix-Avranchin, Basse Normandie, France
    A couple of sentences for me in the first section.

    Therefore, if there are fish that would swim or birds that would fly only after investigating the entire ocean or sky, they would find neither path nor place.
    The older I get the harder it seems to study and absorb the teachings of Dharma (well most things really), let alone find the time but try to do so. It just seems to take longer to get things bedded down in my mind. I guess that's why I am so keen on following this book, as I have found Okumura Roshi's previous writing, easier to digest and understand.
    However, this sentence to me is saying, that if you are spending all your time studying, then you are not practising. And Dogen is saying "its ok not too study too deeply but its not ok not to practice .......... so practice" . So I am looking forward to how this expressed by Okumura.

    The other earlier sentence is this

    As firewood never becomes firewood again after it has burned to ash, there is no return to living after a person dies.
    This to me initially suggested that Dogen was categorically refuting "rebirth". Now I am one of those "I don't know" if there's rebirth, reincarnation or what. I'll let folks know if and when I cross that line but as discussed here at Treeleaf, I do believe in the constant rebirth and realms that we go through during our mortal lives and often during a single revolution of this planet. Many have I traversed so far this morning alone ! So again I will interested to see how this unfolds, especially in terms of the Relative (this sentence) and Absoloute (all that is in the Universe, stays in the Universe, no log, no person to start with).

    Anyway's my 0.02 euros


    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart

  3. #3
    Thank you Jundo. =)


    倫道 真現

  4. #4
    When a person attains realization, it is like the moon’s reflection in water. The moon never becomes wet; the water is never disturbed. Although the moon is a vast and great light, it is reflected in a drop of water. The whole moon and even the whole sky are reflected in a drop of dew on a blade of grass. Realization does not destroy the person, as the moon does not make a hole in the water. The person does not obstruct realization, as a drop of dew does not obstruct the moon in the sky.
    I am no going to pretend that I have a solid understanding of this or any other part of the reading. I like this passage in particular because of the imagery of something unimaginably large like the moon and the whole sky being reflected in something quite small like a drop of dew on a blade of grass. Imagine a whole field of dew covered grass blades all reflecting the vast sky.

    I also like the poetic expression of stillness and equanimity implied by “The moon never becomes wet; the water is never disturbed.”

    I think this is going to be a wonderful experience reading this book together and I look forward to the discussions.

    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  5. #5
    The whole moon and even the whole sky are reflected in a
    drop of dew on a blade of grass.
    I am reminded that more than 50 years ago (0_0), I read, after running out of D.T. Suzuki, Dumoulin's history of Zen. IIRC he went on and on about Rinzai and koans, and then there was a short, somewhat admiring chapter on Dogen, with some deprecating remarks that struck me as not quite on point. But I was like WAIT WHAT ... and thus a long and slow journey began.

    What set me off was that he included this poem:

    To what indeed shall I liken
    The world and the life of man?
    Ah, the shadow of the moon,
    When it touches in the drop of dew
    The beak of the waterfowl.

    This translation must be different from others, as I've never been able to locate the poem in context. But it has stayed with me all these years ... "gotta get back to Dogen ... that poem! That's the real stuff ..." etc. So when I found that line in Genjokoan, in a sense it was like coming home.

    doyu sat today

  6. #6
    Hi - I've read the book before but as I don't seem to retain anything these days (ageing brain!) I don't recall Okumura's commentary.
    Also - I find Dogen enigmatic - so every time I re-read him something 'new' seems to pop out.

    'To investigate the significance of the length and brevity of time, we should consider whether the water is great or small, and understand the size of the moon in the sky.'

    This seems to me about our limited perspective on many things (for example, our struggle to understand time and discrete moments - the moment of firewood being firewood, ash being ash, life being life, death being death etc.)

    Reading through I began to experience the whole of Genjokoan as being about human perspective and its delusions/limitations.

    'In fact viewing is not something fixed'

    mm..... lots to ponder on



    Sat today

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